Origin of the Writer is a series of essays giving emerging writers the opportunity to share their writing journey so far.
In at the deep end with Ripple
One weekend, when my children were away camping, I toyed around with the idea of writing a book. It didn’t happen overnight, I’d been considering this for a very long time and had written a few chapters of a book, which I shared with my best friend. We’d go to a café and laugh our heads off. She was the other character in this narrative; clearly this smacked of autobiographical writing, even though the men were definitely a work of fiction. I’d written holiday journals (which I insisted on reading to family and friends- they had no choice far out at sea), stories for my children (we all have our own punishment), poems for various celebrations, and inflicted long-winded emails on my friends. Anyway, I thought I’d write a book.
I opened up a fairly empty spiral bound book; one I’d already used for budgeting (that’s how much budgeting I did), and outlined a rough plot. I had no idea what I was doing, but I was a consummate reader and reasonably well educated. How hard could a simple work of fiction be? If only I’d known! I could be a successful marine biologist with a PhD saving the reef by now, with the time I put in. Anyway, I wrote and wrote and then I thought, scrawling lazily in the lounge room, that I didn’t have a system. I examined the slim completed book, bought several bigger spiral bound books, and kept writing. Then I noticed- as you do when you’re focusing on something- that there were courses for writers at UWA, and at the local writing association, FAWWA, and so I joined in. At the same time, I read widely on the net, watched podcasts, listened to YouTube speakers and decided that I needed to schedule my writing in before work.
Something had to go and it was cycling. I sacrificed cycling for writing and my cycling buddies heaved a collective sigh, weary were they of pushing me up hills and watching me spin out of control on the descent. I can’t think what they talk about now though.
Every book I read said the same thing: build a schedule and turn up. I hadn’t completely stopped cycling, just the serious stuff. When I cycled, I found the rush of endorphins pushed ideas into my head and I would scurry home and scribble out the next scene. I settled into a couple of years of this: re-writing it from handwriting to typing while simultaneously editing (I can only write first drafts with a pen). It was daunting. I employed all the strategies I’d learned, consulted books on writing, and embraced the key points. After a couple of years of re-writing and editing (and raising teenagers and working full time), I submitted it to a structural editor. While it was away being doctored, I was in the swing. I knocked out, in the following eighteen months, three other first drafts. I was in the flow.
I was so grateful to receive the twelve pages of fine printed structural advice because it transformed my story into a novel. In the same eighteen months where I knocked out the other drafts, I spent hours on weekends, after work, and on holidays, implementing the changes: leaving my morning for new writing- I still do this. After structural editing, manuscript assessment, copy-editing, and line editing, it was ready. I submitted it to a few publishers but I didn’t have an agent. I knew I’d probably have to self-publish. I read everything on that and used an Australian company to support that process. It was there that I learned about cover design, fonts, book sizes, ISBN numbers and the whole gamut of back-door information on establishing myself as a business. I use a pen name because it’s easier and it’s close to my own: Annie J Ryan.
I had a great launch party and was well supported by my family, friends and community. Ripple slots into the genre of commercial women’s fiction, where relationships, intrigue, disasters and people are tossed around in the soup of life. It’s been very well received.
Putting a book out there in the cyber-sphere is pretty much like fishing. A lot like fishing. Wrong hooks, wrong bait, wrong time of day, wrong place, wrong gear and well, it can happen that you don’t catch that many. Back to the drawing board, or the storyboard. Find out what you need to do, and do it.
Turns out, I have to market more and I’m not that flash at selling myself. I went to courses on it, had a lot of fun, met great people, and I did learn so much. It will take at least several months of café-contemplation to simply digest it all. You can see why I struggle. I’ve taken a sabbatical from my normal job to focus. Unfortunately, I’ve suffered from waste-time-at-a-café inclinations, and the attention-span-of-a-goldfish tendencies, but I have improved my social media skills, even though I achieved more when I had hardly any time!
The second draft of my second novel (crime, intrigue, relationships) is waiting for a final revision before I submit it to publishers. I intend to publish each of the three other novels in the following five years, and then see where that leads. I’m excited by the prospect of unleashing new characters and stories into the world and watching what happens to them. It’s been a fascinating journey so far.